Prix Ars Electronica


ORF Oberösterreich

The Year of the Roving Art Piece

Joachim Sauter / Jon Snoddy

The essential objective of our jury has been to examine interactive digital art generated by extraordinary multi cultural/ cross disciplined teams and individuals. The selection of the most significant pieces must ultimately stimulate the imaginative potential of an equally diverse audience. Charged with this responsibility our jury demonstrated considerable trust and mutual respect to fulfill the highly respected cultural initiatives of Ars Electronica. It is in this spirit of open mindedness that we appeal to all participants and supporters of Prix Ars Electronica to rise above any particular political activity attempting to deflect our liberty to celebrate the collective cultural aspirations. The reputation of this Institution has been hard earned, and now, more than ever we need to protect its status within the International community of art and science.


This category always tracks technology development somewhat and the maturity of the PC is beginning to make itself evident. Gone are the days of science as art. We remember just a few years ago, that nervous anticipation as the engineers worked feverishly just to get an image to appear on a screen. Gone is the image of the artist wrestling with technology forcing an idea into existence.

The PC is has become the generic interactive device. As art installations become more sophisticated, the equipment lists get shorter and more manageable. Sound and video almost always come from computers now rather than separate components. There is still room for the highly customized installation, but thankfully, that is the artist’s choice, not imperative allowing more energy and time to be focused on the idea. The area in which we saw artists pushing the technology was in taking the hardware out of the boxes. This trend will likely accelerate.

Each year a particular technology seems to be in vogue. Circular screens last year. Projections and sounds that viewers triggered, the year before. This could turn out to be the year of the roving art piece, heralding what might turn out to be a new era in which the art approaches the viewer on its own terms rather than the other way around. "RoboCup", "Free Range Appliances in a Light Dill Sauce", and "GraffitiWriter" all explored different aspects of mobile intelligent objects.

Embedding intelligence in mobile machines is a timely subject as we are entering a new era. The news is filled with examples. Indeed the "RoboCup" project sets as a goal for itself, the winning of the World Cup soccer event by a robot team. This week the news is filled with stories of laser system that shoot down missiles fired from many miles away. Robots as avatars warring against one another. Virtual Reality indeed.

The lack of development in the CAVE is an interesting trend. The system’s breathtaking ability to transport must be balanced with the complexity of development. While there were a few entries, none were awarded prizes. One must wonder about the future of such large expensive installations. Maybe it is time to abandon the current hardware in favor of lower cost video game systems.

Raffael Lozano-Hemmer

This piece is interesting as a work of public art, as a sophisticated but simple user interface, and as a highly successful collaborative work. It was also interesting in its reappropriation of fascist lighting themes in a celebration of egalitarian access to public artistic expression.

The work celebrates the city square that has been the center of public life for the people of what is now Mexico City, for hundreds of years. Powerful, remote controlled spot lights were placed on top of the buildings that surround the square. A 3-D model of the square was created and a client applet was written to run on the user’s machine. Using this applet and a normal web browser, users can very easily arrange the lights over the virtual square and view it from any vantage point in the area. The design is submitted to the site and it is added to the queue. A web page for the design is automatically created showing the virtual design and after the design is loaded into the lighting control system, actual photographs of the work are added to the web page for the design.

Control of the lighting was offered to and accepted by people from all walks of life throughout the world, but appropriately, most of the participants were from Mexico. The people enjoying the work helped create it.


Institute for Applied Autonomy

Entries like "GrafittiWriter" are seductive on their entertainment value alone but this one uses its clever presentation to force a deeper examination of our relationship to society, law and self expression.

The system consists of a remote controlled battery powered car. On its rear bumper is a line of spray paint cans with electronically actuated valves. A message is loaded into the car’s memory and as the car moves forward, a message can be written on the ground by pulsing the paint sprayers on and off like an ink jet printer.

As the anonymity of the internet enables a separation of the body and the personality we are forced to rethink many concepts that were previously assumed to be settled. Music companies worry openly about the difficulty of enforcing copyright laws in an anonymous society. Discussions are turning up on the web about the difference between anonymity and privacy with some industry leaders openly calling for an end to anonymity.

While few of us paint our political positions on the sides of buildings in public, if those acts could be done with complete anonymity the numbers would surely be different.

Audiovisual Environment Suite

Golan Levin

Art with interactivity or Interactivity as art. The jury sessions opened with an admonition that Ars Electronica is here to celebrate the latter, not the former. The discussion segued into one about the maturity of the medium. Similar concepts are appearing over and over, albeit with more polish and more interesting execution. Interactive Art is approaching a level of maturity at which this is to be expected.

A world of users whose VCR’s sit at home incessantly blinking 12:00 can celebrate the elegance with which the user interface on this suite of tools provides access to an incredibly rich feature set. Without pandering to the neophyte with preset automatic art generators, it simplifies what was previously an impossibly complex map of controls allowing the user to interact directly with the visuals and sounds that interest him.


Julien Alma / Laurent Hart

"Borderland" offers a unique view of the world through the use of fighting video game technology. The project replaces the typically garish cartoon look of the fighting game stage, with a harsh view of urban blight in the real world. Real people, the kind you work with every day, replace the expected game characters. As the game is played these real people compete and struggle for their existence. The timing of the game, the score keeping, the environment and sounds remind us of what the world is about. Conflict and competition for resources in a shrinking world.

Zimmer mit Aussicht

Michael Bielicky / Bernd Lintermann

This interactive, immersive installation enables users to discover the essence of Bohemia that is conveyed through seven different context levels. In the foreground of this installation is the visual experience of the artistic and scientific developments of this country, which have always been somewhat outside the norm. Accordingly, the installation uses a new method of image generation that has been especially developed for this project. The seven worlds displayed (from Rabbi Loew to Zdenek Sykora) are dynamically generated from a store of images depending on the user's behavior. In the use of images, the openness of the process required by an interactive installation is never arbitrary.

Although the concept of interaction is quite cryptic in some places, the representational level compels the users that much more to exploratively navigate through the material projected onto a 360 degree dome.

Experiments in Touching Color

Jim Campbell

Aptly named, this piece provides a sensation of touching the colors of an image. An image is displayed on a touch screen equipped display. When the user touches the screen, the color of the pixel of image under the finger at the point of touch fills the screen. As the finger moves across an image the user can see and almost feel the colors that make up the image. This installation allows users to imagine that they have developed a new sense. One that involves the hand and the eye and allows a new perception of color.

Free Range Appliances in a Light Dill Sauce

Rania Ho

Maybe the world needs web enabled refrigerators, and stoves that communicate with grocery stores and recipe services. Or maybe not. Whether necessary or not, companies are busily developing Smart Appliances.
Older kitchen appliances; toasters, blenders etc, have been fitted with wheels and battery powered motors. Some of them have light sensors that allow them to follow a light around the stage.
This robotic project explores the anthropomorphic qualities inherent in household appliances, and inspires a moment of reflection on the role of technology in our homes.

Intercourse- The File Cabinet Project

Istvan Kantor

Though this piece was more performance than interactive, its compelling imagery of intensive interaction between people and their office furniture demanded our attention. The cacophony of drawers slamming, the highly kinetic stage performance and the video projections create an intensely entertaining experience in which the audience finds itself contemplating office furniture in new ways.

As Much As You Love Me

Orit Kruglanski

This work, one of the few really convincing interactive poems, is particularly striking because of the way the interaction and interface concept corresponds to the contents. In the poem, the (inter)active reader explores the theme of guilt. The reader experiences the very abstract contents through the intelligent combination of the screen design and the hardware user interface physically and thus also emotionally. A pleasantly simple force-feedback mouse, developed by the author herself, makes it possible to haptically feel the burden of guilt, which grows as the reader collects various sentences (negated pleas for forgiveness). There are places on the user surface, where the user can escape the burden of guilt (and the increasing physical force that is required to move the mouse) - but as soon as one leaves this places, one faces the guilt again.

The Active Text Project

Jason E. Lewis / Alex Weyers

"I get it, move on!" cries the MTV generation. Could it be that a significant reduction in the time required for comprehension has occurred or has the reduction simply been applied to attention spans. In any case information is certainly being transferred more quickly and demand remains high for even more speed. Text is an elegant container for carrying and storing ideas. It can be comprehended faster than speech. Pictures are faster than text, but in some ways less precise.

This project demonstrates a system that enables users to modulate new layers of communication onto text by means of a simple interface for controlling complex animation behaviors. The text created by this system carries the written meaning as well as the meaning added through animation. The first use of this technology will almost certainly result in slower loading, badly designed web pages with obnoxious advertising. Over time the technique may mature into a new type of communication that lands somewhere between text and video.


Douglas Edric Stanley

Interactivity as art. The user manipulates strings equipped with force feedback transducers that allow him to physically feel the effect he is having on a story that he is creating and is displayed on projection screens nearby. The user’s inputs are interpreted by a computer controlling video images on a screen. Different types of movements generate different types of actions on the screen. As the user continues, a unique story line unfolds. We found the feeling of the interface to be quite compelling. It encouraged the user to explore the effect of his actions on the story.

Unconscious Flow

Naoko Tosa

This is one of the installations that builds on previous works. We have seen all the parts before, but they are assembled here in a way that is interesting and new.

The project explores the unspoken and largely unconscious communication that occurs as two people meet. A new human relationship is a complex, somewhat unstable situation in which your actions are interpreted and acted on by the other person. Those reactions trigger new actions and reactions, either bringing the two people closer together or farther apart. These iterations can occur very rapidly.

This project demonstrates this phenomenon by placing people close together with their hands in a shared pool of water. The system attempts to understand what is going on between the pair by measuring and analyzing their pulse rate. Faster pulse is assumed to indicate more stress, more variation in pulse indicates interest.

To the extent that the user’s measurements achieve "synchronized" state, mermaid agents projected onto a screen in the water move in sync with the user’s hands. Without synchronization, the mermaids appear to swim away demonstrating the nonverbal communication between the users.


Tomoko Ueyama

"Watashi-chan" or "another self" is a suit of clothing that has a different view of the world and is able to report on what it experiences. "Watashi-chan" has different sensory perception than the human such that it is able to hear sounds, audible or inaudible and transpose them into changing shapes.

The system consists of an air pressure source, microphones, some computing to select pitch, air valves and balloons. Depending on volume and on pitch different balloons are inflated. Wearing this clothing apparatus enables one to comprehend the effect of sounds, whether audible or not, on the body by observing the changing shape of this other self as the body encounters sounds of differing pitches and intensities.

The artist is aware that we are immersed in all sorts of sounds and constructed the apparatus to explore their effect on her body.

A Body of Water

Andrea Zapp / Paul Sermon

This work is about change, remembrance and transformation. Technology has moved on. Coal is no longer the gold that it once was. Caught in the wheels of the change machine are the workers who came of age during a period of transition. In this piece workers who disappeared from the physical reality of life and labor, reemerge as images from the digital memory of computers and networks.

The heart of the display is a two sided projection onto the water jets in the showers at the coal miners changing room. On one side documentary footage of workers showering are projected and on the other side, images of the audience viewing the piece. The two distinct images do not mix, but are contained in the same space by the water spray creating a startling view of both realities.


Hiroaki Kitano

This entry did not fit exactly into any of the categories but it was an important work that the jury chose to recognized with a special award.

A quick glance might lead one to conclude that "RoboCup" is one of the many competitions designed to encourage technology development at university level. Electric vehicle research has long been driven by racing events and man-powered flights were first accomplished to win contests. What sets this idea apart is how well it was thought out. By using soccer, the league has a simple rule set that is already understood by all participants and spectators. While the player interactions at the professional level are quite sophisticated, the game can be played at an elementary level, suitable for the intelligence and coordination of today’s robots.

The initiative has brought together leading scientists from the international artificial intelligence community and robotics each year since 1997. Robots playing soccer is used to illustrate the current state of developments in artificial intelligence and robotics.

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